I thought the Yellow Wallpaper reading was one of the most interesting and dynamic stories we have read all year. I thought the stylistic choices of a first-person perspective narrator and a developing character, rather than a stagnant one, were important as it heightened the tension of the story. In the beginning, I thought it was disturbing to “hear” what she thinks of herself since it was completely based on what her husband thought, and saw the wallpaper as irrelevant. As the story progresses, I thought the metaphor of the wallpaper was ingenious and creative as it was a direct representation of our narrator who was still and quiet in the light of examination by characters John and Jennie, but mentally active and alive at night, in the shadows of her “caretakers”. Although she is characterized as having “hysteria”, the powerful metaphor and the symbolic ripping of the wallpaper stands for the feminist idea that men (represented by John), and other social/political forces (represented by Jennie), force her to act a particular way. This means her “hysteria” is not created or caused by herself but instead created and imposed by others. Our main character has to “crawl” and “creep” over, around, and between these other forces in her life at night in order to live her more true and active self, which is not defined by those viewing and monitoring her “hysteria”. This piece was published in 1892, which makes me wonder just how popular it was at the time. To me, this message seems especially unique for its time period and reminds women that they are also their own person, regardless of what others define them as.
The Yellow Wallpaper’s message reminds me clearly of the “second generation” of the Women’s Suffrage Movement who, as stated in the video, were not afraid of occupying space as their predecessors already broke those social barriers. Although the second-generation women had a completely different way of working towards liberation through activism and constant interaction with politicians and media compared to the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper, who secretly worked towards her unknown liberation, their messages are the same: women are made to feel less by external pressures/forces, they are not inherently less than their counterparts parts, and once women recognize their intrinsic equal worth action must be taken to break those bars or barriers. My biggest critique of The Yellow Wallpaper would when John faints at the end. Although it would have been too progressive for the time period, I wish that John and the women could have had some type of conversation after she rips down her tinged wallpaper because it could have inspired more dialogue between men and women in real life. A conversation between the two in The Yellow Wallpaper would have also been historically similar to the recognition that men had to do after World War One once they realized that many of their old jobs could easily be done by women, which I think led to a lot of internal conversation during that time period which pushed the women’s movement.
Although not connected to the Yellow Wallpaper, I cannot forget to mention the overlap between the Abolitionist Movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement as I think it is an interesting dynamic not explored enough in American history textbooks. Although I knew of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, I did not realize the interesting plays each leader had to make in order to successfully pass their primary objectives (slavery and the vote respectively). Susan B. Anthony’s decision to join forces with southern and racist (but also powerful) women was similar to a tough call made in war. Her political and social moves only searched for increased power and numbers for the Movement, which she knew would be the only way for her to advance the cause. This follows direct war strategies and reminds me of how intense and important the Women’s Suffrage Movement is and was in the trajectory of American history.